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Saturday, July 20, 2024

State reopens some salmon rivers

Nearly half of the 33 rivers closed for salmon fishing in Central- and Southern Norway will be reopened for limited fishing later this week, while stricter regulations will be imposed on rivers farther north. State officials are still worried that there’s still far too few salmon either in or entering Norwegian rivers, and at least two have now been closed for the season.

Wild salmon enthusiasts will again be able to “carefully” fish in this river in Trøndelag, Stjørdalselva, and several others from Thursday July 11. PHOTO: LMD

“We’ve divided the rivers into three groups,” said Raoul Bierach of the state environmental directorate (Miljødirektoratet). One group includes those that “could not” be reopened for salmon fishing, another that includes rivers where officials are “uncertain,” and another “where we’re reasonably secure they can be reopened for careful fishing through this season.” Fishing in those rivers will once again be allowed from July 11.

State officials warned that salmon fishing will be strictly regulated, with local officials in charge of how the fishing can continue.

Fully 17 of Norway’s popular rivers will remain closed, including the Orkla and the Lærdal, but among those reopening will be the Gaula in Vestlandet’s Sunnfjorden, and Trøndelag’s Nidelva, Stjørdalselva, Verdalselva and Namsenvassdraget, including Høylandsvassdraget and Sanddøla.

Also reopening in Vestlandet will be the Oselva, Daleelva, Åelva and Ommedalselva. The Figgjo and Vikedalselva will reopen in Rogaland, as will the Tovdalselva, Otra, Mandalselva and Lygna in Agder. Korsbrekkelva will reopen in Møre og Romsdal.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that the Gaula River in Trøndelag, historically one of Norway’s best salmon rivers, and the Orkla (also in Trøndelag) will be permanently closed for the season.

The closure of Norway’s salmon rivers on June 23 has set off strong protests from both fishing enthusiasts and those owning land- and fishing rights. They face losing millions in revenues that sportsfishermen have been willing to pay, also if they have to go along with so-called “catch and release” rules. The latter allows fishing enthusiasts to cast and catch, but then release the salmon back into the river. In some cases, salmon caught have been taken to hatcheries in the hopes of breeding more, but that’s also become controversial.

One lawyer and avid salmon fisher has filed formal objections to the river closures and around 1,300 have signed petitions, arguing that the state’s lack of action earlier has led to the wild salmon shortage. Nearly 98,000 wild salmon were caught in 2022, much lower than in earlier decades, while just over 70,000 were caught last year.

Early catch numbers this season prompted state officials to crack down and close rivers, and some support the action. “If we don’t make wise choices now, we can destroy the entire future of salmon fishing,” Torfinn Evensen, leader of the Norwegian rivers group Norske Lakseelver told newspaper Aftenposten earlier this week. Some river owners have limited fishing themselves, in order to avoid forced closure.

Researchers and river owners still can’t explain the collapse of Norway’s wild salmon catch so far this year. Only 84 wild salmon had been caught, for example, in the entire Mandal waterway systembetween June 1 and June 23, when the rivers were closed. That compared to well over 300 during the same three weeks last year and more than 500 in 2021.

Experts cite both salmon parasites and lice spread by farmed salmon, climate change and warmer sea temperatures. There may also be other unknown factors: Kjell Utne, a senior researcher at Norway’s ocean research institute Havforskningsinstituttet, told newspaper Dagens Nærlingsliv (DN) last week that salmon born in Norwegian rivers from the Swedish border to Nordland normally fatten themselves up and spend the winter in the Norwegian Sea and in open seas off Greenland.

“There they meet salmon from Denmark, Scotland and Iceland,” Utne said, acknowledging that “something dramatic” may have occurred out at sea, hindering their return to Norwegian rivers. “That’s probable, but we don’t know,” Utne told DN.

Rivers in Northern Norway have enjoyed the return of far more salmon than those in Southern Norway, though, and not everyone blames Norway’s huge salmon farming industry. The industry itself is vigorously on the defensive, noting there’s also been a reduction of wild salmon in areas where there isn’t any fish farming in local waters.

All agree that wild salmon “must be saved,” as Aftenposten editorialized last week. Some call for enclosed containers for fish farming that wouldn’t allow fish to escape, while others want better regulation of dams and installations tied to hydroelectric power, and more regulation of the wild salmon fishing itself. “Closing salmon rivers isn’t good enough on its own,” wrote Aftenposten.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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